Posted On August 9, 2017 In Local Car Accidents
Texas recently became the 47th state in the country to pass a state-wide texting and driving ban. Prior to the passage of House Bill 62 (HB 62), also known as the Alex Brown Memorial Act, Texas law banned wireless communication devices for drivers under 18. In addition, drivers could not use mobile phones in school zones or if they possessed a learner’s permit less than six months old. HB 62 bans motorists from reading, writing or sending electronic messages, regardless of their age or location. The law does not address making or receiving phone calls. There are exceptions to texting under HB 62, such as reporting or responding to an emergency. Once the new law takes effect, first-time offenders could be fined up to $99 for texting and driving. Repeat offenders could be fined up to $200.
When Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 62 into law at the end of the legislative session, he requested that cities and towns be banned from passing these ordinances. Instead, Senate Bill 15 would make the Alex Brown Memorial Act become the uniform state law. Local ordinances would be rolled back. During the special legislative session, the Texas Senate signaled it would move ahead with the request.
For many years, cities and towns in our state passed their own texting and driving ordinances. As of 2016, 102 cities and towns had these ordinances. For example, in Nacogdoches, it is illegal to use any electronic messaging device while driving in city limits. In Conroe, you cannot text behind the wheel even if you are stopped on the side of the road. Austin, Texas has an ordinance that bans hands-held electronic devices while operating a vehicle or bicycle. However, you can use a hands-free device (Bluetooth or GPS) while driving or cycling in Austin. According to the Austin Police Department, this hands-free ordinance is responsible for a 17 percent reduction in fatal car accidents.
Understandably, there are opponents who argue that centralizing distracted driving laws could lead to more deaths on Texas roads. Opponents argue that municipal ordinances may be stricter than HB 62. Many of these opponents are law enforcement officials from across the state. There is some truth to this argument, as some cities and towns have hands-free ordinances.
HB 62 does pass a statewide ban, meaning areas of Texas that did not have a ban on texting and driving will now have one. Prior to the passage of HB 62, Lufkin did not have a distracted driving ordinance.
Distracted driving is responsible for thousands of fatal car accidents per year in the United States. People that survive these accidents may suffer catastrophic injuries that can ruin not only their lives but the lives of their family members. Texting behind the wheel is an incredibly selfish act that puts other people at risk of being harmed.
The Texas car accident lawyers at Mike Love & Associates, LLC are dedicated to making our community a safer place.